While in Des Moines last weekend for the NCAA regionals, Kim Mulkey discovered a strange thing: her tongue was going numb. It progressed to an odd feeling in her mouth when she was eating, and later she noticed that her left eye was sagging a bit. Her smile became “crooked”, something which concerned her enough to seek advice from Baylor’s team trainer, Alex Olson. Olson immediately recommended she seek medical attention, as those were all signs of an impending stroke.
In fact, Bell’s palsy has many symptoms similar to that of a stroke, but is actually a paralysis of the facial muscles which strikes suddenly–often overnight–and is either caused by muscle inflammation or by a virus. Most people afflicted with the condition recover with treatment–which includes steroids to reduce the swelling–relatively quickly, sometimes in as little as two months. Some have irreparable damage to facial nerves.
“I don’t obviously have a severe case of it,” Mulkey said. “Because I’ve seen the worst. I’ve seen people who have it where their face is totally drooping.”
Mulkey, who is 49, is expected to begin seeing an improvement in her symptoms in the next two weeks, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t make a full recovery. The coach, regarded as something of a pistol by her peers, says she won’t let this stop her from taking Baylor into the Final Four, which they advanced to on Monday after their win against Tennessee.
“And y’all (reporters) need to look out because they tell me these steroids make me irritable,” she joked while giving a statement about her ailment.
With the Final Four being so close, Twitter users are reacting to the news as they try to get a better understanding of the affliction: